I awoke to bright sunshine this morning and a brief glance outside at the nearby trees promised that the winds had finally dropped. Breakfast was the typical french thing of croissants, fresh bread and homemade jam etc etc. Just the ticket! Today was to be a shorter day of 58 or so miles so a bit of an easy one after the last three.
I’d managed to fix the GPS last night after my dear daughter had emailed me the route files. The thing was working perfectly now. Why it had occurred yesterday, I don’t know. Hopefully, that would be an end to it playing up.
10 or so minutes after wheeling out of the town and into open countryside, the wind soon made its return. South/South-westerlies once again and almost as strong. My route today was going to take me south-east(ish) but then turning south later on. After about 15 miles or so, I was ready for a cuppa but also keen to get off the bike for a few minutes as I was getting pain in my knee (not a good sign as a cyclist!). I’d had a few twinges in the days leading up to leaving London but dismissed them as nothing. After a cuppa and malt-loaf fix, I carried on and the pain had susbsided. The temperature was certainly starting to warm up as I ventured further south and I stopped to stock up on water (more bloody weight to carry!). Again this area of France was blessed with great cycle lanes keeping traffic well away from you. These were also shared with pedestrians. I was stopped at one point by a french dog-walker (I’ve never seen anyone walking a dog in France before – they’re either running free near where they live and try to bite your shoes or are confined to their gardens barking as you pass to the point of near exhaustion!). This chap waved, shouted at me to stop and then struck up a conversation. He was obviously a past-finalist in the French Speed-Speaking National Championships and was averaging around 250 words per minute. I didn’t catch one of them! He could’ve been saying anything – he probably was. “Lentement Monsieur s’il vous plait” (slowly please),I protested. I attempted to explain in my best pigeon french what the ride was all about whilst he cast me a stare that told me he hadn’t a clue what I was going on about. In his response (and he’d clearly forgotten my request to speak slowly) he was back up to 250 words per minute. I also couldn’t help but notice that his eyes blinked at the same speed as his jaw, almost like those disco lights you buy that flash in time to the beat of the music. It was most fascinating to watch. He also started pointing in both directions – at what, I haven’t a clue. I simply nodded and interjected the odd “oui” when I thought it appropriate. Eventually and as we had exhausted our vocabularies, there the conversation ended. I did hear a ‘Bon Courage’ though right at the end which sounded more like ‘BoCrage’ The phrase taking a whole microsecond to complete. What he hadn’t notice whilst all this was going on that his spaniel was feasting on a dead rabbit with a Michelin tread pattern across it’s hind quarters. Now my french does extend to “Monsieur, your dog is eating a dead rabbit” but the dog was having such a good time, I just didn’t have the heart. The dog on the other hand, had the heart, the liver and probably the kidneys!
Time was getting on and after being navigated through a woodland path, I was eager to find somewhere for lunch before the whole of france shut down for the afternoon (as was the case in every village I had passed through so far). I eventually stumbled up on a ‘Fritterie’ – french style fast food type place. Not the Macdonalds/Burger King rubbish but a small privately owned business serving the usual pro-obesity type foods. I mentioned I was hungry and ordered a Galette Anglaise (Turned out to be an egg, bacon and tomato wrap! – Delicious!) and what looked to be enough chips to feed a family of 6. It was immense and although I was 30 miles in, I really couldn’t do it justice.
Another observation I made was the road markings denoting a cycle path – cycling must be very popular with the cast from Close Encounters of the Third Kind in these parts (See below!)
Note the baguette in the top of the shot. Fallen out of someone’s basket no doubt. You’d think they’d have noticed!
The afternoon part of the route, guided me south which, like yesterday turned me into the wind and it strengthened as the afternoon progressed. As the wind increased, so too did this damned knee pain. I made it to Le Cateau-Cambrésis where I stopped at a Pharmacy for some advice. The lady who served wore an immaculate, pressed white coat and was probably in her late 50s. She walked out from behind the counter to examine to defective knee (or ‘genou’ as it is called here). To onlookers entering the shop, it could not have looked any worse. Here we had a chap in his late 40s, clad in lycra shorts, whilst a middle-aged woman in a white coat was crouched in front on her knees. She then whipped out a tape measure just as someone walked in. I turned my head to look and got the most alarmed look from an old pensioner. Anyway, after measuring my knee, Madame disappeared for 30 seconds and returned with an elasticated sports bandage. I thought she would just hand me the box, take my money and I’d say my Au Revoirs. No, she insisted on stooping down once again to fit said bandage. Now these support devices, they’re not supposed to be loose and can be a bit of a chore to fit (especially on someone else). However she did her best and managed to get it 99% in position. The final 1% though was her undoing as she pulled this bandage in an upward direction, grasping it with only her fingertips. As quick as a flash, her fingers lost their grip and her knuckle shot in an upward direction to catch me clean in the parts that should never be hit by anything travelling at high-velocity Even through the padding of the cycling shorts, it still smarted a bit and my eyes did water. Embarrassed, Madame repeatedly cried “Pardon”. All I could muster was a quiet , yet strained “It’s OK!”. So, there I was in a small French town with a knackered knee and I end up getting punched in the nuts by a pharmacist! Now that’s not something that happens every day!
The bandage did help. It got me to the end of the day but the pain was a worry. I made it to Guise over undulating road against this wind. Hopefully a rest tonight would do the trick and things will be improved on the morrow.
Thanks for reading. Bye for now .